US pharma giant Merck to buy Australian biotech company Viralytics for $394m


Merck acquisition of Viralytics : US pharma giant Merck has made an AUD 502 million ($394 million) deal to acquire Viralytics, an Australian biotech company focused on developing oncolytic immunotherapy treatments for various cancers.

Merck will acquire the Australian biotech company through one of its subsidiaries as per the latest pharma acquisition news.

Through the acquisition, Merck is all set to expand its immuno-oncology pipeline by adding Cavatak (CVA21), Viralytics’ lead investigational oncolytic immunotherapy candidate.

The Australian biotech company describes Cavatak as a formulation made from an oncolytic common cold virus – Coxsackievirus Type A21 which has shown anti-tumour activity.

Viralytics says that Cavatak has the ability to directly target a wide range of cancer cells, at the tumour site and also throughout the body, after which it infects them, multiplies within and eventually destroys them.

Cancer Cells illustration

Cancer Cells illustration. Image courtesy of dream designs at

Commenting on Merck acquisition of Viralytics, Roy Baynes – Senior Vice President and Head Global Clinical Development, Chief Medical Officer of Merck Research Laboratories, said: “Viralytics’s approach of engaging the innate immune system to target and kill cancer cells complements our immuno-oncology strategy, which is focused on the rapid advancement of innovative monotherapy approaches and synergistic combinations to help the broadest range of cancer patients.

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“We are eager to further build on Viralytics’s science as we continue our efforts to harness the immune system to improve long-term disease control and survival outcomes for people with cancer.”

Viralytics is currently evaluating Cavatak as an intratumoural and also as an intravenous agent in a number of phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials.

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Through a deal made in 2015, Cavatak is also being evaluated in combination with Merck’s Keytruda cancer drug for the possibility of treating melanoma, lung, prostate and bladder cancers.

Malcolm McColl – Managing Director and CEO, commenting on Merck acquisition of Viralytics, said: “This proposed acquisition culminates years of dedicated work by the Viralytics team and represents an opportunity for significant value creation for our shareholders.

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“Viralytics is proud to have progressed its lead investigational candidate CAVATAK to Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials and, we believe that Merck, the leader in immuno-oncology, is best suited to advance CAVATAK for the benefit of patients globally, and to realize its potential.”

Merck acquisition of Viralytics is anticipated to be completed by Q2 2018, based on approval of the shareholders of the Australian biotech company shareholders and also receipt of customary regulatory approvals.

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